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First off, do a search, there are 20 something threads about dampers.

ie http://www.kawiforums.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=3392&SearchTerms=steering,damper

But basically steering dampers resist movement in steering, so if you are riding really fast, and the front end starts to wobble, which could normally turn into a headshake, the damper will absorb that movement and cancel it out. The downside is that at slow speeds, like trying to do a u-turn, its harder to change directions/steer the bike.
 

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But a lot of the high priced dampers are easily adjustable, so if you plan on doing a wheelie or something, you can reach down and stiffen it up, or conversely, if you were going to do a U-turn and needed to be able to turn the handlebars easily, you could loosen it up. My Toby damper has 30 different settings on it. On the hardest one, you would have to be the incredible Hulk to turn those handlebars.
 
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